I found this picture in my folders (not sure where it originally came from but (C) Daniel Groszek ).

Sample image

How were the colours achieved here obtained? It looks like a black and white photo, plus blue and the occasional drop of red. Also, the building lines between windows are exceptionally striking.

When I've taken photos of buildings i get results more like this:

My shot

Where the colours are much more 'muted' and everything seems dull and lifeless.

Any tips on how to emulate this effect/what the effect is called? Is this done more in post or during the shot?

  • This MAY be he: 500px.com/dgroszek Jun 18, 2013 at 11:09
  • How was it determined that the effect they are trying to achieve here is "high-gloss"? I combed through the original questioners comments and notes and see no reason why that was added. This part in particular makes me think this question is not about the gloss in the window panes "Also, the building lines between windows are exceptionally striking."
    – dpollitt
    Jun 20, 2013 at 12:37
  • 1
    @dpollitt I think you are correct here, I find the bold black lines to show the contrast better than the surfaces of the windows... I didn't realise the title had been edited :/
    – NULLZ
    Jun 20, 2013 at 13:48

6 Answers 6


In Lightroom I increased exposure, contrast, hightlights, whites, clarity, and decreased shadows, and blacks. The biggest impact comes from contrast boost and black decrease.


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  • Another option to increase reflections on an image is to use a polarized filter. Since one setting blocks 100% of polarized light, and 50% of random light, you block reflections, with the opposite setting you get 100% reflection and 50% random light, resulting in an increased reflection image.
    – SinisterMJ
    Jun 20, 2013 at 12:30

There is one fundamental difference between your shot an the sample shot you linked that no one seems to be addressing: The sample has highly reflective windows on all the buildings, each of which are reflecting each other. There are reflections.

Your photo is of an isolated building that either does not appear to have very reflective windows, or is simply not reflecting anything other than a dull sky. If you want the same kind of pop as the sample you are referring to, then you need to find the same kind of buildings in the same circumstances: They need to reflect each other!

If you photograph isolated buildings with windows reflecting nothing other than a bland sky, then you shouldn't expect anything other than bland windows. ;) Go downtown, or change the angle at which you are photographing to include more intriguing reflections...and I think your problems will solve themselves.

I do not believe any special processing was involved in the sample photo, either. There was obviously some exposure and contrast manipulation to the authors taste. There are other colors in the scene, as muted as they are. If there was any special processing, I'd say the author simply boosted the "Aqua" color channel's saturation setting a bit...and that's it. But I would NOT state that is the primary source of the intriguing reflections...the source of the intriguing reflections is simply the fact that there ARE reflections, a facet that is entirely lacking in your photo.

  • 1
    Totally agree with the lack of reflections in my photo. That was just an example shot while i was playing with a DO lens from a nearby store and i just cropped the corner out because the buildings around it were not 'glassy' I'll head out to where I think that photo was taken some time next week and see if i can reproduce the effects based on what people here have suggested!
    – NULLZ
    Jun 18, 2013 at 23:45

It is possible that a polarizing filter of some type may have been used to limit which reflections were being seen. The lighting conditions probably also happened to be just right and the building itself probably had highly reflective windows.

As for the "pop", it's a very high contrast image that looks like the contrast was expanded. Basically the darks were pulled down to be darker and the brights were boosted up to be brighter. It is probably why it looks like it was a black and white image to you because everything is either very dark or very bright with very little in-between. It normally produces a very unreal looking effect if there is color in the image, but when there isn't a whole lot of color it can work really well for making an image stand out (some amount of it can work well even in color images as long as it isn't overdone.)

  • Would the contrast changes explain the lack of clouds?
    – NULLZ
    Jun 19, 2013 at 0:05
  • @D3C4FF - not sure what you mean, they both appear to have cloudy skies and have portions that are reflecting clouds. The original sample image of the desired look does have the contrast altered such that the clouds have primarily over-exposed, but you can see them some in the darker parts of the reflections.
    – AJ Henderson
    Jun 19, 2013 at 13:50

Funny I should find this! This is quite an old photo so I don't really remember what I did. But here is the original for you: http://www.danielgphoto.com/misc/IMG_4096.JPG

At a guess I just simply cropped it and boosted the aqua/blue channel (as someone suggested here)

  • Hey Daniel! Thanks :) Can I ask which city you shot this in? Cheers for the original!
    – NULLZ
    Nov 26, 2013 at 22:23

Others have addressed the feel / colors (boost contrast, filters, etc) but I wanted to point out that first photo was also shot with a much wider lens. This affects how "striking" the lines are -- there's much more perspective (things far away look really far away) and the shot feels more dynamic than the one that you posted.

More about wide angle shooting: http://www.kenrockwell.com/tech/how-to-use-ultra-wide-lenses.htm

  • Agreed, I've shot my sample pic with a telephoto @300mm so it's not even beginning to approach a wide shot like the one above.
    – NULLZ
    Jun 19, 2013 at 0:05

It does appear that some selective color might have been used in processing, along with the contrast boost that others have mentioned. But the source of the aqua that dominates the image appears to have been present in the original scene. It is the color of the glass in the rounder building that was behind the camera that is reflected in many of the buildings in front of the camera.

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